Mid-Winter 2017 Anime Ranking

Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu Sukeroku Futatabi-hen 05
01. Descending Stories: Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu (Sukeroku Futatabi-hen) (ep. 1-10) – It may have seemed like an unwanted burden to raise someone else’s child, and Yakumo may have wondered what he was thinking when he took Yotaro in on a whim, but without them, he would have nothing now, nothing but rakugo and his personal demons.

Other than Konatsu and Shinnosuke, none of the members of their family unit are blood-related. Konatsu and Yotaro’s marriage appears to be platonic even. Yet the affection, loyalty, and respect they all feel for each other is obvious. To Yakumo’s chagrin, it’s this family that keeps him tethered to this earth; and even if he thinks he’s ready, it won’t be easy to take rakugo to the grave with him in a lovers’ suicide. (At least that’s what I wrote last week. Some of that is brought to the forefront in the emotionally rewarding ep. 10.)

It’s a rare treat to see this kind of grown-up anime. The characters are realistic and have so much personality. I continue to be blown away by Ishida Akira’s performance in the lead role, too. He is voicing Bon/Kikuhiko/Yakumo as an aging master now, one whose body is failing, and who still performs rakugo. Just wow.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

GUNDAM IBO 40
02. Mobile Suit GUNDAM: IRON-BLOODED ORPHANS (Tekketsu no Orphans) (ep. 39-45) – After the unfair attack on Turbines, Tekkadan had ample reason to fight back in retaliation. No, there didn’t need to be an additional loss of life to spur them to action. However, I really liked that Orga intended to honour the wishes of his lost friend and take the high road. It took the secondary attack to prove that Jasley was not about to take no for an answer and that a battle was unavoidable after all.

Rarely have I ever had it in for a character as I do for Iok Kujan. This guy needs to die. I even blame Julieta for saving his life last cour. She should have allowed that stupidity to be nipped in the bud. Look how many good people have gone to their deaths because he lived!

So, Tekkadan basically have no choice now but to go all in with that snake McGillis. The death flags are all but smacking us in the face. It’s depressing, and I hope I’m wrong, but it wouldn’t surprise me if we have a huge Shakespearean tragedy in the works.
(streaming at DAISUKI and Crunchyroll)

ACCA 05
03. ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Dept (13-ku Kansatsu-ka) (ep. 1-9) – In this stylish, but rather simplistic-looking anime, major revelations are treated with the same gravitas as casual discussions about food.

Considerable intrigue is swirling around beneath the surface. A lot of higher-ups have the idea that someone is planning a coup against the kingdom, and that our main character Jean is involved. He doesn’t seem to think so, but whatever. After all, there are more pressing matters, such as how to find the best place to buy the local specialty dessert for his little sister. Truly a unique show.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

Masamune-kun no Revenge 04
04. Masamune-kun’s Revenge (Masamune-kun no Revenge) (ep. 1-10) – Teenager changes his name, pretties himself up, and schemes to get revenge on the childhood crush who rejected him years ago.

This could have been pretty dark and ugly, since it’s based on such a mean-spirited premise. However, Makabe is actually a friendly and reasonable guy, apart from his vendetta. And, he’s worked hard to become the good-looking specimen he now is.

I really like the way the music is utitlized in this show. It is intentionally just a little bit more exaggerated than you would otherwise expect during certain scenes, effectively evoking ominousnous or drama – and humour, since the disconnect is noticeable.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

yowamushi pedal new generation 08
05. Yowamushi Pedal: NEW GENERATION (ep. 1-9) – It’s a new year, and the senior members of Sohoku Cycling Club are passing the torch. The next generation faces the pressure of defending the school’s standing as the current reigning champion after winning the last Inter-High.

So glad it’s looking like underdog Sugimoto is going to get some development. Yeah, he’s not as good as his teammates and he’s arrogant beyond his abilities (probably to hide his insecurities), but he seems to have good intentions, so it wasn’t nice to see him treated as the show’s running joke.

On the Hakone Gakuen side, I didn’t really pay any attention to Kuroda before. I like him; he’s a riot. I hope to see more of him messing with new guy Ashikiba, whose confidence combined with cluelessness is pretty funny too.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

Fuuka 08
06. Fuuka (ep. 1-10) – I definitely had some reservations going into Fuuka, as romance stories aimed at male audiences frequently have elements that bother me, such as violently tsundere heroines, extreme milquetoast protagonists, and tacky fanservice.

The first episode seemed to feed into that stereotype; it had its panty flashes and the main guy got assaulted for no reason. Thereafter, though, the anime seemed to break out of the mold. Fuuka acknowledged that her behaviour was inappropriate, which in turn made her friendship with Yuu believable.

I like that they are taking the band practice stuff very seriously, even if their rate of progress would be considered miraculous. The earlier coincidences in the show were also pretty laughable – let’s just get that out of the way.

I totally don’t mind the direction they’ve taken with the romance; but I am concerned about where they might be going from here, as the show’s namesake is surprisingly not currently part of that equation.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

07. Marginal#4 Kiss kara Tsukuru Big Bang (ep. 1-9) – This season’s idol group / high school anime is pretty stupid. Thankfully, there is usually a touch of something twisted or unexpected, either in the boys’ personalities or their behaviour, or in the events themselves. It goes a long way toward keeping the show from feeling generic.

I probably laugh out loud at least once every episode, including every time the dense redhead brings up his lucky underpants.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

08. ONIHEI (ep. 1-9) – Episodic tales about Hasegawa Heizou, a legendary fictional law enforcement officer feared as a demon by criminals. Some of the stories are lighthearted, while others can be pretty dark and dramatic. Often, they follow a fairly predictable course.

More and more we are seeing that Heizou is not entirely the monster that is his reputation. He has a gentler side to his personality too, and a sense of humour.

Crime stories aside, it’s a treat to see the lovely historical scenery and costumes in this late Edo period-setting anime.

Gabriel DropOut
09. Gabriel DropOut (ep. 1-9) – Once an honour-student angel, Gabriel succumbed to earthly temptations during her placement in the world of humans. She’s now become an unmotivated slacker and online gaming addict. You know I find these types insufferable, so it’s a good thing there are 3 other girls to round out the main cast.

The one who frequently steals the show is Satania, a demon (obviously) who serves the Demon Lord. She’s so harmless, though, that everyone thinks she just has chuunibyou. Try as she might, she’ll never be Gabriel’s equal in depravity.

Gabriel DropOut is reasonably funny and enjoyable, but like most shows that are not part of my Top 3 this season, I think I might forget to watch it if it wasn’t on a viewing list.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

10. ALL OUT!! (ep. 13-21) – While I’m still not terribly invested in the characters, ALL OUT!! is shaping up to be a decent sports drama at least.

The soundtrack, by Naruto Shippuden composer Takanashi Yasuharu, continues to impress. At times I have hit rewind, not to re-watch the game play, but to hear the music again!
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

11. KONOSUBA –God’s Blessing on this wonderful world! 2 (Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo! 2) (ep. 1-9) – I got a few laughs out of the earlier episodes, when the group was facing off against the slimy toad-creatures and when Darkness made her return. In general, I don’t feel like I’m enjoying KONOSUBA! 2 as much as other viewers are. It just isn’t super funny to me. The current arc, which takes place in a town populated by aggressive proselytizers, is even kind of tedious.

The artwork continues to be hit on some episodes and miss on others. Apparently it’s not even a budget or timing thing. One of the directors really just doesn’t give a damn whether the characters appear on-model or not!
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

12. Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid (Kobayashi-san Chi no Maid Dragon) (ep. 1-9) – KyoAni’s latest series is an innocuous little comedy about an office lady who gets involved with fantastical (and yet rather mundane) creatures after inviting a dragon to live with her. The animation is good and the production is smooth and competent overall.

Personally, I find the slice-of-life stuff to be played a bit too straight for my liking. I wouldn’t say the show is unfunny, exactly, but both my sister and I can easily sit through entire episodes completely straight-faced. Even though they’re cute and sweet, the characters just don’t charm me the way it seems they’re supposed to.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

blue exorcist kyoto saga
13. Blue Exorcist: Kyoto Saga (Ao no Exorcist: Kyoto Fujouou-hen) (ep. 1-10) – I was looking forward to the return of Blue Exorcist since I remember enjoying the 2011 series quite a bit; but unfortunately, I haven’t been able to really engage with this sequel. Part of the problem is that it’s been so long since the first anime that I’ve forgotten a lot of the details. And also, the last chunk of that series was anime-original material that we have to pretend doesn’t exist now, so that doesn’t help either.

It’s taken until ep. 8 to get me a little interested in the show. Finally, we are seeing some humorous interactions between the crew, mostly thanks to Suguro and Rin talking to each other again. I still wish Rin and Yukio would have some better scenes together, though.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

14. Scum’s Wish (Kuzu no Honkai) (ep. 1-8) – An uncomfortable tale of two teenagers in the midst of unrequited love for someone unattainable who find solace in each other’s company. The anime attempts to explore the dark side of romantic and sexual relations, and obsessive love.

Honestly, it’s a bit of a challenging watch. It’s supposed to be edgy and deep, but virtually every character is selfish and unlikeable. I personally can’t relate to any of them. I especially can’t get over the openly promiscuous teacher; how does she carry on like that without fear of nasty rumours and job loss?

15. NANBAKA (ep. 14-23) – It seems like we’ve been stuck inside dreary Building No.5 for a long, long time. What happened to all the sparkles? It’s true that there’s an actual plot now, but I don’t really care about these side characters. I’d prefer to see more focus on our main quartet of prisoners. And Hajime. Needs more Hajime.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

Also watching 3 seriously cute but twisted shorts:

Koro-sensei-Quest-02
KORO SENSEI QUEST (ep. 1-12) – Assassination Classroom re-imagined as a chibi fantasy game narrative featuring Koro-sensei as the Big Bad.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

nobunaga no shinobi 18
Ninja Girl & Samurai Master (Nobunaga no Shinobi) (ep. 14-23) – The history of Oda Nobunaga re-imagined as a chibi gag comedy continues from last season.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

Chiruran nibun no ichi
Chiruran 1/2 (Chiruran: Nibun no Ichi) (ep. 1-9) – Shinsengumi-themed Chiruran re-imagined as a chibi slice-of-life comedy, except there hasn’t even been a Chiruran anime yet! I hope this means we’ll get a proper adaptation in the future. I’d like to see it happen.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

LOGAN

Logan2

3 stars (out of 4)

Released 2017

The acting was good, the story was believable, the action was slick, and the violence was suitably graphic. The overall experience, though, was kind of a downer.

I suppose that was to be expected; the promotional material made it clear Logan’s abilities were fading and Charles was losing control over his body and mind. But it’s really depressing to see your heroes stuck in such a miserable existence and being so vulnerable. Logan actually took a bullet for his car in the opening scene, and it was completely without irony since he seriously needed that car to make a living.

It’s definitely a well-made and thoughtful film, but I guess I have a personal bias toward badassery in my superhero movies. LOGAN left me feeling sad.

THE WOLVERINE

The Wolverine 2013

2 stars (out of 4)

Released 2013

It’s Wolverine week in the Jacquie household!

So yes, I had purchased this second Wolverine DVD as well, and despite my good intentions, and the fact that it takes place in Japan, and the positive reviews, I didn’t watch this one either until now.

I’m really surprised that this was the better received film! It didn’t even seem like much of an X-Men story, there were so few mutants in it! Well, if you’re not really into superheroes and would prefer to see swordfights instead, this might be more widely accessible, maybe.

In the earlier Wolverine film, all of the action scenes were very relevant to the plot. Here, they played out more like an excuse to present a travelogue of uniquely (and rather stereotypically) Japanese imagery.

Almost as if the story had to have a reason to be set in Japan, it included scenes of samurai swordfights, black-clad ninja, love hotels, pachinko parlours, and more. I tried to be open-minded, but I couldn’t help thinking it was a bit much. Logan even fights a mobile suit, for Christ’s sake!

At least Godzilla was nowhere to be seen.

I suppose the train fight was impressively ambitious. I’ve seen many train-roof battles before; but granted, never one unfolding at 300km/hr atop a Shinkansen. Only problem was, I couldn’t buy that the bad guys were actually scheming anything in that situation. When you’re clinging to an object moving at that kind of speed, I would imagine your one and only priority would be to just stay alive.

All the attempts at humour fell pretty flat.

In order to care about the heroine, Mariko, I needed to see some development in the relationship with her adopted sister, or her father, or her boyfriend – pretty much anything but what we got. Her relationship with Logan was both unnecessary and uninteresting.

Ultimately, I could have forgiven some of that tropey stuff, especially if it pleased the intended audience, if it were not for the paper-thin, unconvincing plot. That, I could not overlook.

X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE

X-Men Origins Wolverine

3.5 stars (out of 4)

Released 2009

It was probably around the time when this film came out that I started to have less inclination to go to the movies. There might have been some superhero-movie fatigue too. Add to that the tepid reviews and the fact that I had already read various Wolverine origins stories before in comic book form, and the result was I never bothered to go out and see this.

Some years ago, I purchased the DVD because it was on sale; and even then I didn’t actually watch it. Until now. What the heck – it’s really good!

Perhaps it isn’t as metaphorical or philosophical as something on the level of First Class, but as a coherent, plot-driven action film and character study, it gets the job done in a riveting and entertaining way. While the events are mostly serious, there are segments of comic relief, and they work really well.

The only questionable aspect I can think of is a strange driving sequence which looks really fake, almost as if they were trying to emulate the way films used to look during the time period of that scene. Why they would do that, I don’t know. The rest of the film looks pretty great.

Well also, could hydrochlorothiazide do what they suggested? I kind of doubt it, but then again, the “patient” is not exactly a normal human being either.

Anyway, I enjoyed ORIGINS a lot. Hugh Jackman was excellent as Logan/Wolverine, as he always is. I love him in this role!

Jacquie’s 2016 Year in Review – Music

BEST FULL-LENGTH ALBUM:

lynch. AVANTGARDEA-PHOTO-RED-FIX
AVANTGARDE, by lynch. – When it comes to lynch. albums of the past few years, it seems like it’s every other release that meets with my approval. Sure enough, after my disappointment at 2015’s D.A.R.K. -In the name of evil-, AVANTGARDE continued the pattern and earned a wholehearted thumbs up from me.

Let me first go back to D.A.R.K. -In the name of evil- and try to explain what I thought was lacking about that album. Some of the songs were just not to my taste, which happens. But even the ones I tended to like didn’t go in the direction that I wanted them to. For example, several of them started off well and sounded good, but at some point I felt the music needed to evolve, and instead, the melodies just repeated.

Happily, I can report that I had no such issues with the tracks on AVANTGARDE. While it still might not be up to the standard set by GALLOWS (2014), I enjoy listening to AVANTGARDE all the way through without wanting to skip anything. PLEDGE and UNELMA are standout tracks.

My favourite, though, is PHANTOM, which is gorgeously melodic and comes complete with some beautiful guitar solos. Heavy metal ballad-style songs such as this are one of the reasons I’m so glad I have Japanese hard rock bands like lynch. to listen to.
(Available on iTunes internationally)

BEST MINI-ALBUM:

UROBOROS - ZODIAC
ZODIAC, by UROBOROS – This sophomore release from Kamiki Aya and Kurose Keisuke’s band further showcased their gothic-flavoured hard rock sound.

Favourite tracks: Infection and Lunar Eclipse
(Available on iTunes internationally)

BEST SINGLES (A-sides & B-sides) in order of release date:

GALAXY STANDARD - BE MY STEADY
Be My Steady, by GALAXY STANDARD (Be My Steady, RUSH, You’re My Courage)
GALAXY STANDARD is the idol-group incarnation of the Saisei Stride Club from the PRINCE OF STRIDE: ALTERNATIVE anime. The singing is performed by the members’ voice actors, namely: Miyano Mamoru, Toyonaga Toshiyuki, Hirakawa Daisuke, Eguchi Takuya, Suzuki Tatsuhisa, and Ono Yuuki.

All 3 of these tracks, composed by R・O・N, made my Top 20 Anime Songs list for 2016.

GazettE - UNDYING
UNDYING, by the GazettE (UNDYING, MALUM, VACANT)
The third and final audio release of the GazettE’s PROJECT: DARK AGE, which also included a world tour that brought them to 4 continents across the globe. As an avid concertgoer and a fan of Japanese music, I end up doing a lot of travelling in order to see my favourite artists perform live. Excitingly, the GazettE came right to my neck of the woods and I got to experience them live in Toronto on the day of this single’s release, definitely one of the highlights of my 2016.

The title track seems to make some lyrical references back to the first single, OMINOUS, from DOGMA, which makes sense. I really love the part where RUKI sings “God, entomb my hate.”

Favourite track: VACANT.
(Available on iTunes internationally)

coldrain VENA II
VENA CHAPTER : II, by coldrain (Born to Bleed, Undertow, Gone (Acoustic), The Story (Acoustic))
The new recording of Gone is now, to me, the definitive version of the song. The vocals, instrumentation, and slower tempo are absolutely perfect. Now when I hear the original version, it actually seems too fast.

Favourite tracks: Undertow and Gone (Acoustic).
(Available on iTunes internationally as part of VENA II, a re-release of VENA (2015) which includes these 4 new tracks.)

VAMPS - INSIDE-OF-ME
INSIDE OF ME, by VAMPS (INSIDE OF ME (feat. Chris Motionless), RISE OR DIE (feat. Richard Z. Kruspe))
I was really excited for this single after seeing the advance PV for INSIDE OF ME. The month-long delay between the Japanese release and the international release date felt like forever.

The tracks, which are both excellent, are the result of VAMPS’s collaboration with western talent, including American producer Howard Benson.
(Available on iTunes internationally)

scribble and beyond cover
Scribble, and Beyond, by OLDCODEX (Scribble, and Beyond, Calling, The Experience)
This single collects the main themes from the two Kuroko’s Basketball compilation movies, along with a coupling song, Calling.

Favourite track: Calling. This is another one of those OLDCODEX songs that I think might sound complete and amazing as just an instrumental. Ta_2’s sexy low range vocals are the icing on the cake. Yum.

Other Notable Tracks:


TAKING OFF, by ONE OK ROCK – One of my favourite recordings by ONE OK ROCK in recent memory. Some fans complained that it was too much of a departure from their usual sound. I would argue that ONE OK ROCK actually have a pretty wide range stylistically, to the point that I only consider myself a casual fan of their work. They have certainly made darker-sounding rock songs before.

Even though I don’t necessarily relate to the message of the song (addiction), I do appreciate that the lyrics are really well-written. But can you imagine us boarding our overseas flight last fall with this song playing in our heads? “We’re taking off together / even though we always crash and burn / tonight you and I will fall from the sky” is kind of inappropriate and unsettling, to say the least! I wonder how many other ONE OK ROCK fans have had this very same experience? Great song, though.
(Available on iTunes internationally)


Deal with, by OLDCODEX – It’s the second year in a row that I have chosen a super-heavy theme song created by OLDCODEX, one that was used in a relatively obscure anime that got no other mention in my review post, as my number one anime song of the year. (For 2015, it was physical from Q-Transformers.) Deal with, which served as the rather jaw-droppingly heavy OP of SERVAMP, features an excellent balance of screamy death vocals and a catchy melodic chorus; the accompanying music is dark and intense but it is also offset by a couple of quieter guitar interludes. I love complicated songs like this!

For the complete list of my Top 20 Anime Songs of 2016, please see the “Year in Review – Anime” post.

Jacquie’s 2016 Year in Review – Anime

As I sat down to contemplate the series that I felt were the best of 2016, at first I thought I might be looking at a 3-way tie, maybe even 5-way. Only after checking my scoring on MyAnimeList did it become apparent that one series received a higher grade than everything else. The other shows settled in behind it then. The top shows were really close, though; and it doesn’t help that they were all so different in terms of setting, genre, tone, and subject matter.

In the end, the top 4 were basically my highest ranking picks from each season. I’m not actually going to rave about these series again right now; please follow the links if you wish to see the previous write-ups.

☆ Top 10 Anime:

#1. 91 Days (12 episodes)
91-days-wallpaper
Aired Summer 2016
(streaming: Crunchyroll)

#2. Yuri!!! on ICE (12 episodes)
yuri-on-ice-06
Aired Autumn 2016
(streaming: Crunchyroll)

#3. Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu (13 episodes)
shouwa-genroku-rakugo-shinjuu
Aired Winter 2016
(streaming: Crunchyroll)

#4. ASSASSINATION CLASSROOM (Ansatsu Kyoushitsu) SECOND/FINAL SEASON (25 episodes)
Assassination Classroom
Aired Winter 2016 and Spring 2016
(First season of 22 episodes aired Winter 2015 and Spring 2015)
(streaming: FUNimation)

#5. AJIN (26 episodes)
ajin-season-2
Aired Winter 2016 and Autumn 2016
(streaming: NETFLIX)

#6. The Disastrous Life of Saiki K. (Saiki Kusuo no Psi-nan) (24 full-length episodes)
saiki-k
Aired Summer 2016 and Autumn 2016
(streaming: FUNimation and DAISUKI)

#7. KABANERI OF THE IRON FORTRESS (Koutetsujou no Kabaneri) (12 episodes)
Kabaneri - Mumei
Aired Spring 2016

#8. Thunderbolt Fantasy (13 episodes)
Thunderbolt Fantasy - Lin Xue Ya
Aired Summer 2016
(streaming: Crunchyroll)

#9. ERASED (Boku dake ga Inai Machi) (12 episodes)
ERASED
Aired Winter 2016
(streaming: Crunchyroll and DAISUKI)

#10. Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE! LOVE! (Binan Koukou Chikyuu Bouei-bu LOVE! LOVE!) (12 episodes)
cute-high-earth-defense-club-love-love
Aired Summer 2016
(streaming: Crunchyroll)

☆ Favourite Guilty Pleasure Anime:

Scar-red Rider XechS (12 episodes)
scared-rider-xechs
Aired Summer 2016

I watch most of my anime with my sister. Scar-red Rider XechS was bad or boring enough after 3 episodes that she dropped it. I persevered however; and before long, I found myself looking forward to each new episode with an enthusiasm that was out of proportion with my generally low opinion of the production’s quality.

One of the reasons was that I started to love the characters. Yosuke and Takt (more on him later) in particular were well-written and well-acted, but the rest of the cast were also entertaining and endearing in weird ways.

The other reason was my gradual belief that the absurd plot developments and dialogue were intended to be comedy, and weren’t just bad writing. Just as how The Lost Village didn’t make it clear to its audience if the plot was supposed to be funny or not, SRX sometimes presented a similar predicament. Well, I like my personal interpretation of these shows; after all, I seem to have found a lot more enjoyment from both of them than most viewers did!

Anyway, I will always remember the “western-style restaurant” conversation of ep. 5. It literally had me giggling for days, maybe weeks, afterward whenever it came to mind.
(streaming: FUNimation and DAISUKI)

☆ Sequels that significantly outperformed their predecessors:

Active Raid 2nd – With all the goofing around they did in the first cour, and much of the second too, who would have imagined that Active Raid was in actuality laying down the groundwork for a serious, even thought-provoking, storyline all along? But that was what we got! The payoff was a whole lot better than I expected, infinitely better, since I don’t think I ever considered that a show like this would arrive at such a coherent, meaningful outcome.
(streaming: Crunchyroll)

BUNGO STRAY DOGS 2 – Even those of us who were not won over by the meandering first cour of BUNGO STRAY DOGS had to sit up and take notice when this second season started. Suddenly we had a brand new protagonist and a mature, plot-heavy flashback tale. I, for one, was in no hurry to return to the present timeline. When we did, it was predictably a bit of a disappointment, but by then the show had secured my interest and my goodwill.
(streaming: Crunchyroll)

☆ Biggest Regrets:

Dimension W and KIZNAIVER. These shows had some potential, but managed to squander it completely and go in the opposite direction. I ended up hating them.

BATTERY the Animation similarly went completely off the rails and turned into a huge disappointment. However, it didn’t incite the contempt that those two shows did.

Other shows that were simply a waste of time: GARO: CRIMSON MOON, Bloodivores, Utawarerumono: The False Faces, OZMAFIA!!, and Sekkou Boys. It was my own damn fault for continuing to watch most of them, though.

☆ Favourite Characters:

srx-05-takt
#1. Kirisawa Takt (cv. Miyano Mamoru), Scar-red Rider XechS

Obviously, the leader of LAG’s 6th combat unit and frontman of Odd I’s is pretty and has a nice voice. And it’s easy to sympathize with him as the straight man in a show full of eccentrics.

Beyond that, I like him partially because I can relate to him on a personal level. That sort of thing doesn’t happen often for me, but as a fellow skinny, height-challenged, long-haired idealist with a discerning taste for rock music and a preference for black platform boots as everyday footwear, I guess this anime character and I have a few things in common! Naturally, I also share Takt’s opinion on the topic of shiitake mushrooms as an ingredient for food preparation.

bungo-stray-dogs-odasaku
#2. Oda Sakunosuke (cv. Suwabe Junichi), BUNGO STRAY DOGS 2

He was only in 4 episodes, but those 4 episodes, which told a dark, tragic prequel story, were so good! I loved Odasaku in the lead role; he was badass, principled, and extremely sympathetic.

As mentioned, that early segment of season 2 totally blew me away and changed my opinion of the whole series up till that point.

days-kimishita
#3. Kimishita Atsushi (cv. Ono Daisuke), DAYS

Abrasively bossy characters with a habit of pointing out other people’s faults because they themselves are so smart and/or skilled are certainly not everyone’s cup of tea. I seem to have a soft spot for these types, though. MACROSS DELTA’s Messer had this kind of personality as well, albeit with less anger than Kimishita, and I liked him a lot too.

There are the rare occasions where Kimishita reveals that he is actually a nice guy. However, those moments of kindness could also be interpreted as a backhanded way of expressing his impatience at others’ incompetence, whereas normally he is just way more upfront about it.

It is entirely thanks to Kimishita and the other senpai, especially Ooshiba and Mizuki (ie., not the main characters), that I made it through all of DAYS and ultimately gave the show a somewhat decent score. I even intend to return for the sequel.

☆ Best (Funniest) Single Episode:

Osomatsu-san 16 Osomatsu-san 16a
Osomatsu-san episode 16: “Matsuno Matsunan / The Ichimatsu Incident.” As if the “Mad Max” parody featuring F6 wasn’t gratuitously over-the-top enough, it was then followed up by an incest sketch!
(streaming: Crunchyroll)

☆ Best Finale:

TSUKIUTA. THE ANIMATION – I can’t actually recommend most of this idol anime. But if you’re inclined to watch, make sure you continue to the end, because the last part of that concert-themed final episode was the most stunning and feel-good finish of any series that I watched in 2016.
(streaming: FUNimation and DAISUKI)

As far as shows I do recommend go, I applaud ASSASSINATION CLASSROOM for its emotional yet heartwarming and hopeful ending.

I was also very satisfied with 91 Days’ ending, including the way it left some things open to interpretation.

☆ Best OP/ED Sequence (music & visuals):

BUNGO STRAY DOGS season 2 OP: “Reason Living” by SCREEN mode, version 2, which appeared in the middle of the third episode (or overall ep. 15). It occurred once only, but we may have watched it more times than we do most regularly occurring OPs. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a link to share here; if you’re interested, you can find it at 11:52 to 13:22 of ep. 15.

Honourable mentions: Yuri!!! on ICE ED “You Only Live Once” by Hatano Wataru, and 91 Days OP “Signal” by TK from Ling Tosite Sigure.

☆ Anime Songs Top 20 Countdown:

As with last year, this is a list of the best anime songs of 2016 according to me. The songs are evaluated primarily on the music, not the accompanying visuals of the shows they’re associated with. And it’s the full songs, not the TV-size versions, that are being considered.

20. old revelation, by Mutsuki Hijiri (cv.KENN) (Scar-red Rider XechS ED)

19. RUSH, by GALAXY STANDARD (cv: Miyano Mamoru, Toyonaga Toshiyuki, Hirakawa Daisuke, Eguchi Takuya, Suzuki Tatsuhisa, Ono Yuuki) (PRINCE OF STRIDE: ALTERNATIVE insert song)

18. Shounen no Hate, by GRANRODEO (Mobile Suit GUNDAM: IRON-BLOODED ORPHANS 2 ED)

17. The Experience, by OLDCODEX (Kuroko’s Basketball Winter Cup Soushuu-hen: Namida no Saki e Main Theme)

16. Kaze wa Yokoku Naku Fuku, by WALKURE (MACROSS Δ ED8)

15. Reason Living, by SCREEN mode (BUNGO STRAY DOGS 2 OP)

14. Be My Steady, by GALAXY STANDARD (PRINCE OF STRIDE: ALTERNATIVE ED)

13. Kokoro no Arika, by Heshikiri Hasebe(cv:Shingaki Tarusuke), Souza Samonji(cv:Tai Yuuki) & Yagen Toushirou(cv:Yamashita Seiichirou) (Touken Ranbu -Hanamaru- ED2)

12. ninelie, by Aimer with chelly(EGOIST) (KABANERI OF THE IRON FORTRESS ED)

11. You’re My Courage, by GALAXY STANDARD (PRINCE OF STRIDE: ALTERNATIVE insert song)

10. Through My Blood <AM>, by Aimer (KABANERI OF THE IRON FORTRESS insert song)

09. Scribble, and Beyond, by OLDCODEX (Kuroko’s Basketball Winter Cup Highlights -Shadow and Light- Main Theme)

08. Yoru Ha Nemurerukai?, by flumpool (AJIN OP1)

07. Ao to Aka no Forzato, by Komae Christoph Yosuke (cv.Suzuki Tatsuhisa), Kirisawa Takt (cv.Miyano Mamoru) (Scar-red Rider XechS OP)

06. HOW CLOSE YOU ARE, by Miyano Mamoru (AJIN ED1)

05. The Birth, by Miyano Mamoru (AJIN: Shougeki Main Theme)

04. Signal, by TK from Ling Tosite Sigure (91 Days OP)

03. Hikari aru Basho e, by May’n (Izetta, The Last Witch ED)

02. Warcry, by Sawano Hiroyuki feat. mpi (KABANERI OF THE IRON FORTRESS insert song)

01. Deal with, by OLDCODEX (SERVAMP OP)

☆ In closing, some Notable Quotes:

“If you look even half-decent, you’re considered hot.” – Choromatsu, considering the voice acting profession, in Osomatsu-san ep. 20.

“Your stupidity can’t be cured even by your death. So you might as well live.” – Julieta to suicidal Iok, in Mobile Suit GUNDAM: IRON-BLOODED ORPHANS ep. 37.

“Well don’t lose heart. Girls are as plentiful as stars in the night sky… and just as unreachable for you.”
– Saiki to freshly rejected Toritsuka, in The Disastrous Life of Saiki K. spec. ep. 50, or full ep. 10.

“There’s only one carbonara!” – Yosuke to dumbfounded Takt, in Scar-red Rider XechS ep. 5.

ROGUE ONE: A Star Wars Story

rogue-one

3 stars (out of 4)

Released 2016

ROGUE ONE details the events immediately leading up to Star Wars: A New Hope. It explains how the Rebel Alliance managed to procure the plans to the Empire’s Death Star weapon and gives faces to the brave operatives who took on the task.

The plot is not extremely complicated, and there’s no deep message or theme. What we do get is a lot of space warfare and fighting and explosions and death. There is a tiny bit of character development, and also some humour, much of it courtesy of former Imperial droid K-2SO. Basically, it’s an action piece with high production values, good acting, good special effects, and a likeable cast. It is completely consistent with what you would expect from a Star Wars film.

As an unrelated aside, one of the previews at our screening was for the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 movie, starring Baby Groot. Groot was already cute before, right? Oh my god, they’re killing me with this Baby Groot!

Mid-Autumn 2016 Anime Ranking

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01. Yuri!!! on ICE (ep. 1-10) – For much of its runtime, Yuri!!! on ICE exists as a sports anime about competitive figure skating. As such, it stands just fine, more than fine actually. The narrative and detailed animation is as good, or almost as good, as a top-tier production such as Haikyuu!!. The professionally-choreographed skating is brilliant and gorgeous to look at. There’s plenty of humour throughout. And it’s easy to cry and to celebrate right along with the well-written characters.

The best sports shows can be really excellent at handling sports drama, but, and I’ve said this before, I often want to know more about the athletes’ personal lives. This is where Yuri!!! on ICE goes above and beyond. I wasn’t originally rooting for the characters to get together (apparently I’m not much of a shipper in general), but I really like the casual way in which the romance has developed, interwoven with the skating plot. Having a love story tie everything together adds so much depth to the overall picture.

Plus, the fact that it happens to be an unconventional romance, taking place in a widely popular anime, is very unexpected and makes for a momentous social statement.

Sadly, the positive and tolerant environment of this anime is not the real world that we live in, but Yuri!!! on ICE shows us how the world could be if we just live and let love. And that’s beautifully inspiring.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

ajin-14
02. AJIN (ep. 14-23, or Season 2 ep. 1-10) – If anything, I think the CG animation and the facial expressions have improved this season. The theme songs are kind of crap, though, especially compared to the first season’s offerings.

As an intellectual action story, it doesn’t break any new ground; however, everything AJIN does, it does exceptionally well. So in terms of sheer excellence in pacing and logical yet thrilling story progression, AJIN 2 probably surpasses Yuri!!! on ICE. However, Yuri!!! is my number one, because it is well rounded and truly groundbreaking.
(to stream on NETFLIX)

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03. BUNGO STRAY DOGS (ep. 13-23, or Season 2 ep. 1-11) – The first 4 episodes were amazing. No offense to Atsushi, he’s fine, but I greatly preferred Oda as the main character. The flashback storyline was darker and more serious than anything in the show beforehand. Plus, there were 2 jaw-droppingly cool temporary versions of the OP (which were both superior to the actual version of the OP, by the way). And, it was the only time I can recall hearing my 3 favourite seiyuu, namely Miyano Mamoru, Suwabe Junichi, and Miki Shinichiro, all in the same show, in significant roles, and in the same episodes together. That was some incredible ear candy!

The rest of the season covers the 3-way war between the Armed Detective Agency, the Port Mafia, and The Guild. Honestly, the Guild members haven’t really captured my interest. Dazai, however, continues to be a fascinatingly nasty yet loveable character.

Incidentally, Mamo is starring in all 3 of my top favourite anime this season. Since Dazai and Nagai Kei are both pictured above, I was almost tempted to put a picture of JJ at the start of the post, instead of Yuuri. How wrong would that have been?
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

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04. Haikyuu!! 3rd Season: Karasuno Koukou VS Shiratorizawa Gakuen Koukou (ep. 1-10 complete) – Yes, this whole season is about Karasuno’s one match-up against Shiratorizawa.

It’s also very good. The plays are riveting, the animation continues to be top-notch, and there’s character development too. It’s really satisfying how Tsukishima has become a major force for Karasuno.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

05. The Disastrous Life of Saiki K. (Saiki Kusuo no Psi-nan) (special ep. 66-100, or ep. 14-20) – Still highly enjoyable week after week, even if this cour has so far not been quite as crazy imaginative as the first one. Of course, a certain plot twist that I have been expecting (due to a spoilerific casting announcement back in early October) is still to come.
(streaming at FUNimation and DAISUKI)

06. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: DIAMOND IS UNBREAKABLE (ep. 27-37) – For a long time, I had my doubts about Rohan; I thought it was creepy the way he would try to buddy up to Koichi. But what do you know, I genuinely like the guy now! He’s smart and analytical, definitely a good asset when the rest of the team consists mostly of idiots and the villain you’re up against is an over-powered genius psychopath. The best part is his awkward and antagonistic relationship with Josuke; it’s so real, and so funny.

We’re finally nearing the climax of the Yoshikage Kira story arc which was being built up all season long. I’m kind of lukewarm about what’s happening right now, since I’m not sure all that time travel stuff actually makes sense.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

07. Mobile Suit GUNDAM: IRON-BLOODED ORPHANS (Tekketsu no Orphans) (ep. 26-34) – This is shaping up to be one super-complicated war/politics story. There are so many different factions in play that it’s hard to keep track of everything. Tekkadan, which now has ties to a number of these groups, including Turbines/Teiwaz, McGillis/Gjallarhorn, and Arbrau, is caught in the middle of it all. If they play their cards right, the potential rewards could be great, but there’s no telling if their “allies” can be trusted or how great the costs might be.
(streaming at DAISUKI and Crunchyroll)

izetta
08. Izetta, The Last Witch (Shuumatsu no Izetta) (ep. 1-11) – Pseudo-WWII-themed Izetta, the Last Witch is pretty impressive most of the time. The episodes focused on the war battles, the tactical strategy, and politics are well done; and the narrative is presented in a way that’s reasonably easy to follow. Finé is a great depiction of a strong and proactive leader who happens to be female.

Unfortunately, the occasional down-time episodes have been consistently cringe-worthy at worst, yawn-inducing at best. In those interludes, we get to see the female characters grab each other’s boobs, feel insecure about their bodies, and have tea-time with cake, because that’s what girls do!
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

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09. DREAM FESTIVAL! (ep. 1-10) – At first, I was not very impressed with DREAM FES; it looked like it would be just another second-rate idol anime. Mostly, I hated the Dorika (Dream Card) time stuff. The anime is pretty grounded otherwise, so the transformation sequences, in which the idols not only change clothes magical-girl style, but also transform into CG versions of themselves, are just weird.

But once I got past the Dorika Time and CG performances and unnecessary recaps, the characterizations and personal drama were actually pretty solid. The music is also nothing special, but it does come across as being slightly above average for an idol program.

I actually really liked the KUROFUNE rival duo introduced in ep. 7. I can see how their personalities would make them popular. I think I would totally be rooting for them if not for my awareness that Kanade is the main character and he and his group-mates are really hard-working!
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

10. DRIFTERS (ep. 1-9) – DRIFTERS is graphically violent and loaded with potentially offensive material. For example, one respected, competent female character is constantly referred to as “Boobs.” There are also significant hints that the hooded leader of the villains is none other than the Son of God. Nevertheless, it can be pretty entertaining.

What the show does an excellent job of is illustrating Nobunaga and Toyohisa’s battle strategy and goals. In particular, Toyohisa’s methods of building loyalty while amassing troops are very smart; it’s no wonder so many people will take his side and fight for him voluntarily.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

utapri-4-tokiya-eiji
11. Uta no Prince-sama Magi LOVE Legend Star (ep. 1-10) – I was half-dreading this sequel after the terrible third season, but thankfully Legend Star has been way, way better than Revolutions. There is some purpose to the narrative and the dialogue is much improved. UtaPri is the granddaddy of idol shows, and it proves to be as much a pro at storytelling as at dishing out the tropes in this incarnation.

It’s nice to see some of the STARISH guys’ backgrounds expanded on finally, as they individually participate in duet projects with the members of their new rival HEAVENS, almost all of whom have a screw or two loose.

The theme of the season seems to be “kizuna” (bonds), so many of the stories, although varied, come back to the members having to re-evaluate whether or not they belong in their boy band; and that does get a little bit tiring.

One of the highlights for me was seeing 2 of QUARTET NIGHT’s meanies turn on each other in the second episode. It always annoyed me whenever Camus or Ranmaru bullied Nanami or Reiji, so getting to see the two of them rip into each other was really satisfying.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

12. Kiss Him, Not Me (Watashi ga Motete Dousunda) (ep. 1-10) – You know? In this show, it doesn’t bother me much at all if the guys only like the main girl for her looks. Because what else is there to like really? She’s a diehard fujoshi who only cares about her BL. She isn’t personally interested in any of the guys except to ship them together. Other than that, Kae’s a reasonably nice, decent person, but not in any way that particularly stands out. If they want to be with her, they will constantly have to accommodate her otaku tendencies. So if she isn’t at least hot, what’s in it for them?

I do give the series credit for its honest, self-deprecating portrayal of the obsessive insanity of a raging otaku. Despite some occasional offensive content (such as Kae’s fat voice and sexual harassment-sensei), it is a very funny show.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

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13. DAYS (ep. 13-22) – I still don’t care much for Tsukamoto, or Kazama for that matter. It’s Kimishita that keeps me coming back to DAYS; I love his angry personality and I enjoy his interactions with all the other cast members. Now that he has been playing a bigger role in the series, it’s no wonder my opinion of DAYS is also improving.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

nanbaka-02
14. NANBAKA (ep. 1-10) – For no reason at all, this show has more sparkles than Magic-kyun (see below). It is ridiculously shiny and blindingly colourful, which is especially confounding as NANBAKA takes place in a prison.

There isn’t a lot of substance or depth here, but it is pretty fun to watch. You certainly don’t need to worry about tiring any brain cells in the process.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

15. Bloodivores (ep. 1-10) – It is really hard to say if this Chinese-Japanese co-production is good or bad. A lot is going to ride on how well the ending ties the pieces of the mystery together. So far, all I can do is give it the benefit of the doubt and trust that this vampire/monsters/survival game series has a plan. We will see.

(End of season edit: The naysayers were correct after all; it is bad. Bloodivores continues to raise questions right to the final episode and ends with nothing resolved.)
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

16. Magic-Kyun! Renaissance (ep. 1-10) – While this anime is supposed to be about exceptionally gifted artistes, the actual art produced is decidedly lacklustre. Of course, talent in Magic-kyun! is not measured by aesthetics; rather, it is all about the obscene amounts of sparkles that each artiste can produce. It’s hard to just take that on faith as a viewer, though. One standout fail for me is Ichijouji’s music. I would have expected an elite singing prodigy such as himself to have a deeper, more classical-sounding voice. Somehow the lightweight pop songs don’t get across the depth of emotion the show seems to want to convey.

Most of the characters are likeable enough, I guess, but Magic-kyun! will likely prove to be just another forgettable confection.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

17. ALL OUT!! (ep. 1-9) – I don’t really get rugby, and muscled guys in skin-tight uniforms are not my kind of fanservice.

As a sports anime, it has some similarities to DAYS, as they both feature a diminutive first-year main guy who is a newbie to his respective sport. By comparison, ALL OUT!! comes off as a more realistic portrayal and a more competent production overall, although it’s arguably a bit more boring from its lack of stand-out sympathetic characters. (Which is not the same as stand-out hairstyles – ALL OUT!! has those in spades.)

The soundtrack might be my favourite part of the show. They’re doing a good job with the frequent rock music as well as the lovely piano pieces.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

nobunaga-no-shinobi
18. Nobunaga no Shinobi (Ninja Girl & Samurai Master) (ep. 1-10) – The first of 2 shorts on my list, Nobunaga no Shinobi is a cute, comedic take on the events of the Warring States Era starring a cute ninja girl named Chidori. Some of the episodes are pretty funny, but often they’re too short or quick to get that much out of. The more familiar you are with the events of the time period, the more likely you are to appreciate the gags presented. My knowledge of Japanese history is only so-so.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

19. GAKUEN HANDSOME (ep. 1-10) – It seems kind of unfair, yet obvious, to put this one last, as its charm lies in the fact that it is intentionally bad. GAKUEN HANDSOME is a willfully low-budget, horrendously drawn BL anime full of supposedly hot guys who don’t actually look anything remotely like handsome and a main character who doesn’t even have eyes. It is a series of 3-minute shorts parodying probably every trope in BL/harem/highschool anime, and your enjoyment level may vary. I know mine does.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

~ Well, I think I’ve pictured all the characters voiced by Mamo in the shows I’m watching. I can’t possibly forget about you, JJ. Representing Canada: Jean-Jacques Leroy!
yuri-on-ice-jj

Batman: Assault on Arkham

batman-assault-on-arkham

3.5 stars (out of 4)

Released 2014

Batman’s name is in the title and he has top billing, but he is not actually the main character in this movie. The Suicide Squad, a group of baddies forced to work together, is the primary focus of the show. Their task is to break into Arkham Asylum to recover stolen information. The Caped Crusader is on a different mission, mostly in the background, but it all intersects neatly eventually.

Assault on Arkham features some really great characterization and clear agency for most of the squad members. I actually loved the frequent in-fighting between them. Generally, when teammates start bickering or throwing fists in the middle of a mission, I find it ridiculous that they would be childish enough to lose focus so easily and at such an inopportune moment. Here though, it happened so naturally as a result of their personalities that it was believable, and also very fun to watch!

Viewing this kind of made me nostalgic for the days when I used to watch Batman: The Animated Series and Batman Beyond on the TV back in the 90s. (Kevin Conroy reprises the role of Batman in this film.)

Assault on Arkham showcases excellent narrative direction and its action scenes are beautifully animated. The content is more mature and dark compared to the old TV programs, including some coarse language, implied sex and nudity, and of course plenty of violence and murder, so this one’s definitely not for the kiddies.

Mid-Summer 2016 Anime Ranking

By the numbers:
30 – series I started or continued this summer season. Of those, at least…
3 – series already finished airing mid-season
3 – anime involving time travel/re-living the past
2 – cooking anime
3 – sports anime
2 – spoon-bending psychic lead characters
47 – idol singers/band guys (WALKURE: 5, Odd-I’s: 5, Procellarum: 6, Six Gravity: 6, Kitakore: 2, THRIVE: 3, MooNs: 5, VEPPer: 2, MIVV: 1, Fluna and Seleas: 12)
7 – idols cast in the role of Shinsengumi members for in-show stage plays
5 – idols cast as Shinsengumi member Okita Souji for in-show stage plays
4 – series airing Christmas episodes during the month of August (Cute High, Saiki K., CHEER BOYS, Scar-red Rider XechS)

91Days - 02
01. 91 Days (ep. 1-9) – In this dark prohibition-era mafia revenge story, there are really no good guys, just a matter of who you might be rooting for at the time. Our protagonist is just as evil as they come, and he’s more conniving than most. Characters in this show get brutally killed off all the time; it would not surprise me in the least if even Angelo does not survive past the end of the series.

After 9 episodes, story progression continues to be pretty much flawless. Also, I like how the angsty OP theme, “Signal” by TK from Ling Tosite Sigure, effectively evokes a sense of tragedy amidst all the violence and bloodshed.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

Saiki Kusuo 01
02. The Disastrous Life of Saiki K. (Saiki Kusuo no Psi-nan) (special ep. 1-50, or ep. 1-10) – Saiki is an ESPer who can move things with his thoughts and read other people’s minds. In turn, we’re privy to the rapid-fire snarky comments in his head and it’s devastatingly funny.

Considering that Saiki claims to not give a damn about anyone or anything except for not drawing attention to himself, he’s actually an unexpectedly good guy. While he’s not beyond judging people (he does it all the time), he does go out of his way to help friends and strangers alike with surprising regularity.

Apparently even telekinetics call their mama when there’s a bug in the house. Who knew?
(streaming at FUNimation and DAISUKI)

ReLIFE Kaizaki
03. ReLIFE (ep. 1-13 complete) – ReLIFE had the most unusual release schedule, with all 13 episodes made available immediately at the start of the season. We watched the first half of it almost right away, then put it aside reluctantly to check out the other new offerings of the summer, then returned later to finish the rest.

Underemployed 27-year-old Kaizaki is recruited to take part in a social experiment. He takes medication to age down his appearance and must redo a year of high school for unknown reasons. The characters are very well-written and their conversations mostly ring true. The way little bits of the mystery are revealed gradually as the students go through their experiences makes it hard to stop watching.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

Orange 01
04. orange (ep. 1-10) – The group of friends in this show is really convincing and likeable. Unlike KIZNAIVER from last season, for instance, it’s easy to understand why someone would want to be friends with these people.

This anime deals with mental illness and I appreciate the way it handles the topic. Depression sufferers don’t go around moping 100% of the time. It often is hard to tell that someone is thinking about hurting themselves until it is too late.

What’s really a shame is that the animation quality has been declining steadily week after week. Lately, the characters’ faces sometimes look so off-model that I have trouble telling who’s who.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

Macross Delta 22 - Freyja
05. MACROSS Δ (ep. 14-23) – This newest iteration of MACROSS is only my second foray into the musical-combat space opera franchise. My initiation was its immediate predecessor, MACROSS Frontier from 2008.

That there is also a love triangle in this MACROSS anime is not at all surprising. What is refreshing is that Mikumo, the lead singer of the musical unit WALKURE, has a different role to play and is not part of said triangle. Additionally, DELTA has none of the fanservice that Frontier had; that alone makes me respect this series so much more.

The most notable element of this production has got to be the music. The show generously trots out a new song every few episodes. These musical numbers don’t sound generic, either; they are consistently well-crafted and frequently sung by the voice actors specifically for the scene (as opposed to only using the recorded versions).

06. Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE! LOVE! (Binan Koukou Chikyuu Bouei-bu LOVE! LOVE!) (ep. 1-10) – It’s the sequel, and our colour-coded Battle Lovers are back with frilly new upgrades to their combat outfits. Now that they’ve been around the block a few times, they have a good understanding of when they need to mobilize, and when it’s okay to just stay in the bath.

Unfortunately for our attention-seeking villains, the Beppu twins, the Defense Club has deemed them to be not a threat. The Beppu brothers are also known as the pop duo VEPPer, because obviously, in an anime environment so chockfull of idols, Cute High would surely have at least one or two.

I quite enjoyed the weaponized words in ep. 3. It reminded me, likely intentionally, of Aquarion LOGOS, which was based on the whole bloated premise of physical word attacks. Being used as the passing assault of the disgruntled-student of the week in this show was the proper treatment for that particular lame concept.

Also, the aforementioned Christmas episode was pure comedy gold.

Season one ended pretty conclusively. There didn’t need to be a second season. But these writers are confident and highly self-aware about their material. I have no doubt they know exactly what they’re doing and I’m happy to be along for the ride.
(streaming at Crunchyroll and FUNimation)

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07. Scar-red Rider XechS (ep. 1-10) – I’m not into the generic sentai action, nor am I particularly interested in the alien attack storyline. Even the band stuff is sub-par; the guys seem to talk about music way more often than they actually make any. How SRX has won me over is with its oddball characters, which goes to show how important that single factor can be in determining whether or not I can find a mediocre series enjoyable.

The way Yousuke beats around the bush instead of saying things directly makes me laugh. And I especially empathize with his serious and self-conscious best friend and group leader Takt. Their conversations together are hilarious!

I even kind of like the romance subplot. Three of the guys (so far) seem to have a crush on the same (oblivious) girl, but they each have their own reasons for admiring or feeling protective of her. Because their personalities are well-written enough, it’s actually convincing.

Unfortunately, I’m not super-enthused about the recent dark turn of events. The show is better when it doesn’t bother with the serious plotline as far as I’m concerned.
(streaming at FUNimation and DAISUKI)

08. MOB PSYCHO 100 (ep. 1-9) – Of the psychic-themed comedies this season, this is the more serious take of the two. Mob is young and inexperienced, but he has strong principles regarding the use of his special powers, at least when he’s able to control them anyway. His part-time employer Reigen is a real personality. He’s a self-serving liar and professional con man, and yet, he improbably manages to be a decent mentor to Mob; and it’s all completely in-character.

If you’re into detailed action animation, MOB PSYCHO delivers on that front, offering creative camera work and fluid motion in its fight sequences. If I’m honest though, I’d have to complain that the character designs are all pretty ugly.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

09. Food Wars! The Second Plate (Shokugeki no Souma: Ni no Sara) (ep. 1-10) – As the Autumn Elections continue, Souma is challenged harder than ever and is even forced to acknowledge some of his shortcomings in the face of fierce competition. At the same time, we’re seeing more collaboration among the Totsuki students.

Shokugeki continues to be a fun watch, especially during mealtimes, but it does feel a bit repetitive in how it’s mainly just been one tournament after another.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

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10. sweetness & lightning (Amaama to Inazuma) (ep. 1-10) – Kouhei is a single father juggling the demands of his job as a school-teacher and the needs of his young daughter. It concerns him that Tsumugi rarely gets to eat a decent home-cooked meal, so he ends up joining forces with one of his students and the 3 of them learn to cook together. There is some mild development in other areas of their lives, but basically a new dish is served up every week.

This is certainly a sweet and pleasant show. Probably the only thing I really have trouble believing is Tsumugi’s curly, below-the-bum long hair. I can’t imagine any parent, let alone a single dad, having the time and patience to handle such an unruly mane. I think it could even be a safety hazard for a pre-schooler like her.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

11. The Morose Mononokean (Fukigen na Mononokean) (ep. 1-10) – Ashiya starts working for Abeno, the Mononokean, after the latter helps him to remove a fuzzy yokai that attached itself to him and was draining his energy. Other than an arc in which the pair enter the underworld themselves, the show consists of a series of sentimental stories of yokai needing to make peace with their worldly issues so that they can be exorcized.

The 2 main guys are pretty entertaining to watch, but the best characters are Fuzzy (Mojya), who is expressive with just his eyes, and the yokai wall scroll of ep. 4. That wall scroll deserves more screen time!
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

12. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: DIAMOND IS UNBREAKABLE (ep. 14-23) – JoJo’s is just as good as it always is as far as story, characterization, and humour goes. The reason I’ve been liking it less this season has more to do with the content rather than the quality of the show. I can’t help it; things like severed body parts and spider dissections (I had to look away) are huge turn-offs for me.

If there was one episode I enjoyed immensely, that would be the standalone ep. 16, in which Josuke teamed up with Jotaro to hunt down a rat. Josuke’s thoughts and reactions throughout the ordeal were so funny!
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

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13. THE HEROIC LEGEND OF ARSLAN: Dust Storm Dance (Arslan Senki: Fuujin Ranbu) (ep. 1-8 complete, overall ep. 26-33) – The first series ended without resolving anything, so this is basically a continuation of the story. I liked that they revisited the slavery issue and the effect that Arslan’s position on the topic could have on his potential allies. I also enjoyed the political stuff toward the end. Otherwise, the animation was not great for the most part, and I’m not sure I agree with how the limited time this series had was spent. The pirate arc took up a pretty big chunk; and (spoiler) they still don’t make it back to Ecbatana, though the pieces are now in place for what could be an explosive season 3.
(streaming at FUNimation)

14. Re:ZERO –Starting Life in Another World- (Re:Zero Kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu) (ep. 14-23) – I’m definitely not enjoying this second half of the series as much as I did the first half. The supporting cast are mostly new and we don’t seem to be getting any closer to solving the underlying mysteries from before. Maybe it’s me, but I don’t think I’m really getting the point of all the Witch’s Cult and White Whale stuff and how it relates to the big picture.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

15. CHEER BOYS!! (Cheer Danshi!!) (ep. 1-9) – The men’s cheerleading anime. This was pretty enjoyable for the first few episodes, when the core group of 7 guys were assembling and preparing for their first performance. Then the troupe suddenly ballooned in size to 16 members! Not only did I no longer know who was who, but I was also a bit bored that the main focus was on a personality clash between 2 of the newcomers.
(streaming at FUNimation)

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16. B-PROJECT~Kodou*Ambitious~ (ep. 1-9) – Both B-PROJECT and TSUKIUTA. this season feature multiple boy bands, making it pretty challenging to keep everyone straight and remember which unit they each belong to. We’re talking about a total of 22 idol guys between these 2 programs alone! God help me.

Of the two, B-PROJECT seems to be the slightly better series in terms of characterization and providing insight into the Japanese idol/music industry, well, up to ep. 4 anyway…

They lost me a bit with the incurable illness stuff in ep. 7. Was it supposed to be sad or funny? Sad, I would assume, but I was laughing when I realized the same character who shares a voice actor with Okita Souji (from Hakuouki, whose name as a Shinsengumi member came up previously in this very show) also has a TB-like infectious disease.

They lost me a lot with boring ep. 5 and the spirit-possession stuff in ep. 6. Also, those trashy naked end cards seem out of sync with the not-nearly-so-sexually-suggestive content of the show proper.

Personally, I do enjoy the musical and cultural references in B-PRO. I have twice attended T.M.Revolution’s real-life INAZUMA ROCK FES that the RAIZIN Festival of ep. 4 was based on. Also, ep. 6 had a scene in a Jangara Kyushu Ramen restaurant, one of my favourite ramen joints in Tokyo. However, the way the material plays to an in-the-know audience could be potentially alienating to an average viewer.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

17. BATTERY the Animation (ep. 1-9) – A talented but abrasive young pitcher joins the baseball team at his new school after befriending the catcher. This anime is about baseball, however, the potential BL is frequently acknowledged in-show, as our pitcher-catcher duo is often teased with romantic/sexual innuendo by family, friends, and others.

It started out pretty good, actually. I thought Takumi’s attitude was believable and I was interested in what was going on with his little brother Seiha. However, it’s been very slow moving and it seems like we’ve gotten derailed with the current story involving the rival-team couple.

18. The Highschool Life of a Fudanshi (Fudanshi Koukou Seikatsu) (ep. 1-10) – A fudanshi is a male BL fan. This short series focuses on Sakaguchi’s experiences and his friends’ reactions to his unusual hobby. Generally, it’s pretty funny, but no kidding it really is short, at about 3 minutes runtime per episode only.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

19. planetarian (ep. 1-5 complete) – This five-episode adaptation of a Key visual novel is about a cute-girl android and the junk-collector who encounters her at her planetarium years after the apocalyptic destruction of the city (and maybe the world). It is intended to be a terminal illness-type moe tearjerker, as Yumemi is running on her final few hours of battery life. I thought it was all right.
(streaming at FUNimation and DAISUKI)

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20. TSUKIUTA. THE ANIMATION (ep. 1-10) – One of my least favourite parts of this show are the CGI dance sequences, which never seem to look good in any idol series I’ve seen using that technique. I can understand that doing them that way allows for a greater amount of detailed movement, but it’s just too weird here, especially when the characters are suddenly singing with doll-like faces.

Incredibly, both TSUKIUTA. and B-PROJECT each had an episode where some of the idols were training to star in a Shinsengumi stage play, portraying Okita Souji specifically. Is that a really common thing for boy bands or something? Anyway, TSUKIUTA. won that round; its version, which involved a tough veteran actor (and no supernatural elements) was definitely the better take.

TSUKIUTA., like B-PRO, is vastly different from episode to episode since its focus changes to a different character every week and there is limited linear plot development. So far, I’d say episodes 3 (Animate), 4 (stage play), and 6 (where TSUKIUTA. suddenly became a whodunit comedy) were worthwhile. All the rest were okay, I guess, but I don’t feel like I gained anything from watching them, and I still can’t keep the guys straight! (It turns out there are 12 idol girls in this show too, but don’t even get me started on that. I give up.)
(streaming at FUNimation and DAISUKI)

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21. SERVAMP (ep. 1-8) – Way too many characters just keep showing up, some of whom have had memory-wipes and/or memory implants. Meanwhile the plot is very unclear. I almost dropped this after 3 episodes – actually, I really did drop it. But eventually, I came crawling back to give it another chance because of the voice cast and because Kuro is so damn cute. I had to completely start over in order to get a better grasp of what was supposed to be going on in this stupid vampire anime.

One thing SERVAMP definitely has going for it is its delightfully heavy OP “Deal with” by OLDCODEX, my choice for best theme song of the season. Additionally, in what other entertainment do you get to see pretty men conversing with and fighting each other while carrying cute dolls and kittens in their arms? Then again, maybe nobody needs to see that.
(streaming at FUNimation)

22. DAYS (ep. 1-10) – My brutally uncharitable take on soccer anime DAYS is that it’s nothing but self-insert wish-fulfillment sports fiction. I totally don’t buy all the opportunities Tsukamoto gets, or the admiration he inspires in teammates and opponents alike, when he is so clearly unskilled. That said, the show is not wholly unlikeable. Several of the supporting cast have amusing personalities, including team captain Mizuki, who has his own unique way of expressing himself that everyone finds hard to understand, and team tsundere Kimishita.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

23. OZMAFIA!! (ep. 1-10) – Not much happens in this series of 4-minute shorts about a new student at Oz Academy. There’s no point in watching weekly, so I marathoned a bunch of episodes at once. OZMAFIA!! functions primarily as companion content for the otome game it’s based on, as far as I can tell, not being a player of the game myself. To its credit, the character designs are really cute, but seriously, this show isn’t good. Don’t watch it.

The ending sequence alternately features several songs by Article One, a defunct Christian rock band from London, Ontario that I’d never heard of before. Once again, it amuses me to learn something about my home country through Japanese entertainment.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

Also watching:

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Thunderbolt Fantasy (ep. 1-10) – the Taiwanese/Japanese co-production puppet show, which is technically not an anime at all.

It takes a bit of effort to get used to the puppets’ movements and expressionless faces, but the personalities and storytelling are quite involved. I guess we’ve come to expect no less from writer extraordinaire Urobuchi Gen. I’m still struggling with the Chinese names, though, since they bear no resemblance to their Japanese pronunciations.

Sawano Hiroyuki’s soundtrack expertly adds drama and gravity to the narrative, while the voice actors do a stellar job of breathing life into each of the characters as well.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

BROTHERHOOD FINAL FANTASY XV (ep. 3-4) – The latest installment was the one I had been anticipating the most. Finally the Ignis episode! Suffice it to say I was not disappointed. Ignis is totally like a mom to Prince Noctis. How can you not love him?
(streaming at Crunchyroll and YouTube)

Active Raid 2nd (ep. 1-6) – since it’s the sequel. However, you may recall we weren’t terribly impressed by the first season, so it’s no surprise we weren’t that keen on this either; and we’ve fallen behind. I must say, though, ep. 5 was pretty great. Sena’s impassioned takedown of a garbage-strewing idiot was the highlight. But let’s not overlook MIVV’s sugary, Satanic pop tune; that was pure fabulousness.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)